Emerson World Championship Rotary Tiller Race

Zoie Clift


The engines of the world’s
fastest garden tillers will be roaring during the Emerson 200 World
Championship Rotary Tiller Race on Saturday ( June 26). The event is part of
the  PurpleHull Pea Festival which
take place June 25-26.  A few years
ago when I first came across news of the event, I emailed Bill Dailey, the
self-proclaimed Pea-R-Guy, to find out more. What the heck is this event about, I gently inquired. “You simply won’t see anything else quite like it,”
he had told me. “Where else in the world can you see souped-up garden tillers?
Some can till the 200-foot track in less than 6 seconds.”

In a nutshell ( or I guess
peashell in this case) in the small town of Emerson, population 359,
high-performance tillers racing down a straightaway has become an annual
tradition. Down-home, tongue-in-cheek humor is plentiful during the races and
throughout the festival.

The idea for a pea festival
with tiller racing was first proposed by Glen Eades, who at the time was a
columnist on Emerson-area news in the Magnolia Banner-News. The festival now
garners national exposure ( it’s been featured in Southern Living and Garden & Gun) and pays homage to a local delicacy found in most south
Arkansas backyard gardens. “We get emails from all over the country and a few
from overseas asking about purple hull peas,” said Dailey.

If there is one thing the
festival is known for – besides peas – it’s the tiller race. Souped-up garden tillers from near and far come to compete in the
world’s premiere tiller racing event. The world record for covering 200 feet of
plowed ground was set  by Shane
Waller of Junction City, who piloted a modified tiller over the course in 5.72
seconds, an average speed of almost 24 miles an hour. The world championships
are the highlight of the tiller racing season, but then again, they are the
tiller racing season.

The tiller race itself is
scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. Events scheduled throughout the festival also
include the World Cup PurpleHull Pea Shelling Competition, the Tractors
Exhibitions, the Million Tiller Parade, the Great PurpleHull Peas &
Cornbread Cook off, and the Pea-Stompin’ Street Dance, featuring White Mustang.

Emerson is located in south
central Arkansas six miles north of the state’s border with Louisiana and 12
miles south of Magnolia via U.S. 79. More festival information, including a
complete schedule and an online application for entering the tiller races are
available at www.purplehull.com. Or by calling 870-547-3500.

Join the Conversation